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A guide to help the average man... look less average

Filtering by Tag: banana republic

Essential Outerwear: The Field Jacket

Mark Kwak

So we're onto the second installment of the Essential Outerwear series, and today, the spotlight is on the field jacket, or sometimes more broadly called, the utility coat.

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So what in the world is a field jacket? Well I'mma get descriptive on you: field jackets are jackets that are inspired by a type of outerwear design worn by soldiers during World War II, usually characterized by a rugged look made of waxed cotton or some sort of synthetic, donning multiple pockets, and generally in an olive green or khaki color, just like the military men wore it. To see a couple classic field jackets, check out the M65 or M43.

I love field jackets and utility coats, and they've become quite popular in recent years. I swear every other person on the street is wearing some sort of olive green canvas jacket, whether guy or girl, old or young. Good news is that this ubiquity has made this jacket a very seamless one to wear in any situation. You can be in casual sweats, and a field jacket won't look out of place. I've also seen the other end of the spectrum where finance folks from London are layering their Barbour jackets over their pinstripe suits. I might add that it's not a bad look.

If you're going to get one, I would recommend getting a field jacket/utility coat in a neutral color. Think olive green, khaki, navy blue, black, gray. They look best when they're a bit distressed or wrinkled, and they should fit well at the shoulder, but it's not 100% necessary for them to fit too snug. For example, the Barbour Bedale is one of my favorite field jackets, and it's actually cut in a more classic form to help make sure your movement is unrestricted while you're hunting that deer, or grappling a bear.

These jackets can also act as great rain coats. If it's made of waxed cotton, it's actually meant to be worn in the rain, as the wax keeps the jacket protected from any rain damage. I will have to warn you though, they usually aren't as warm as wool or puffer coats, and hopefully you didn't expect them to be. They work well in the winter time, but not in below zero degree weather.

Here are two of my field jackets, one being more classically field-like (the Barbour one), and the other being a little out of the box (the Banana Republic one). I like them both a lot though:

field1 field2I love the corduroy detailing on this particular jacket. field3Wear these jackets with a scarf if your neck gets cold. Looks great in my opinion. field5Here is the most common color that you'll find a field jacket in. Olive green. field6This one has no lack of detailing either. Leather on the collar. field7 This is actually the jacket that Bond wore in the main battle scene of Skyfall. Couldn't resist getting it for myself as a result. field8

Sweater: J.Crew | Scarf (blue): Todd Snyder x Gap | Scarf (black): Prada

Jeans: Rag & Bone | Jacket (blue) : Banana Republic | Jacket (black): Barbour

Now, I normally say you should spend the extra dollar in getting a piece, but honestly, with field jackets, you can find some great ones for a little less at your mass retailers like Gap or Uniqlo. Penfield also makes some less expensive ones (though they're going to be more than what you find at Gap or Uniqlo).

In the case that you do want to spend the extra dollar, I'd say look for jackets from Barbour, Filson, or Pendleton, GANT, or Jack Spade, in that order. Nordstrom has a great filter where they show only utility coats, so I'd check that out as well.

Either way, a field jacket / utility coat is a great piece that you'll own for quite some time, perhaps even for the rest of your life. I recommend getting one sooner rather than later, and wear it throughout the entire year. Love the ones I have, and I don't regret a single cent in those purchases.

My question to you: Puffer vests

Mark Kwak

I've been meaning to talk about this subject for quite some time. Puffer vests.

Some part of me really likes them, and finds the look quite appealing. The other part of me wonders why they're so popular when they're functionally kind of awkward. If it's cold enough to be wearing a puffer anything, I would imagine that it's best to put on a puffer coat/jacket that covers the sleeves. If it's not cold enough to be wearing a puffer anything, then wouldn't it make sense to just wear a lighter jacket?

Again, I'm a fan of the look, but this thought makes me hesitate on getting one for myself. And I'm also not talking about those thinner quilted vests, but rather the type of vest that makes you look like Marty McFly or the Michelin Man.

Maybe it's for the layering aspect, where you can layer a vest underneath another jacket or coat, but not deal with the sleeve bulk? Or perhaps it's just an easier piece to put on above your sweater? Whatever the case, would love to hear from you guys why you would or would not wear a puffer vest. Lay 'em on me!

In the case that you are pro puffer vest though, here are a couple that I'm a fan of:

$50-100 : Uniqlo Ultra Light Down , Banana Republic Grey Flannel Vest , Kane & Unke Colorblock Vest

$100-200 : North Face Lindero , Ralph Lauren Elmwood

$200-500 : Canada Goose Lodgewood , Gant Rugger Down Vest

$500 + : Moncler Hooded Vest , Burberry Crosby

A proper hoodie

Mark Kwak

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Hoodie: Banana Republic (similar) | Shirt: Black Fleece | Tie: Theory

You may have noticed, but hoodies get a lot of flak in the menswear world these days. You'll often see warnings saying "Throw away that old hoodie and upgrade to a v neck sweater or cardigan," or  "You've graduated college, it's time to let that hoodie go."

In fact, that last quote is basically straight from a simpler woman post that I put up here several months ago, so I'll admit, I'm guilty of being a contributor.

Nevertheless, I do want to clarify one thing, and pronounce to the world that this doesn't mean that hoodies are bad and should never be worn. On the contrary, some of my favorite closet pieces are actually hoodies!

Just look at that woolen hoodie above (which I've awkwardly overdressed), it's oddly one of my most complimented pieces.  I kid you not, literally every time I've worn that sweater out, someone has either asked me where I got it, or complimented me on it. It's also incredibly comfortable, warm, and easy to wear. It's a beautiful sweater, and is a bit more "serious" or "classy" than your average gray Rocky Balboa hoodie.

hoodie1Oh yeeaah, awkward half face cutoff photo. 

The hoodies that I, as well as my other fellow menswear brethren, are warning you about are not these types of hoodies, but instead the oversized ones with logos and graphics plastered on the front. You know, the sports logo hoodie you got in college, or the heather gray one that looks like you're off to the gym for a sweat session?

So the next time you see you an attractive hoodie on the racks at your local mall, you don't need to dismiss it right away. Hoodies can look awesome, it's just a matter of finding the right one.

Thoughts from a simpler woman: Grow up!

Mark Kwak

It's time for another edition of “Thoughts From a Simpler Woman,” where I bring to you a woman’s perspective on menswear. In case you missed the first couple posts in the series, here they are: 1 and 2. Today's post is all about growing up and upgrading your high school, college, or for some of you, post college wardrobe. My friend and colleague Allison will be taking the reigns on this one, and she's one of the most fashion-conscious people I know. Now that I think of it, she was one of the first people I consulted before starting Simpler Man. It would be wise to listen up!

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Grow Up!

Not everyone out there is as stylish as Mr. Simpler Man.  But even if you aren’t a GQ subscriber, putting a bit of effort into your personal style can make a difference.  Don’t believe me?  According to a joint study by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, first impressions are established in just 250 milliseconds (a quarter of a second).  For those of you looking to nail that interview, charm on a first date, or just come across as a put-together dude, I hope these tips can help.

My first piece of advice: grow up!  If you’ve been wearing the same thing since high school, chances are you need to upgrade.  Not sure where to start?  Here are some of the top offenders I’ve seen as a Simpler Woman:

1. Instead of The Embellished Hoodie … Try a Hooded Jacket

From this:

To this:

I know, I know - they’re comfy.  They’re practical.  And I’m pretty sure everyone I know, including myself, has had one at some point in their life.  But trust me, it’s time to let this one go.  The good news is, you don’t have to go to extremes.  I don’t expect you to go straight from hoodies to a suit.  Instead, try a hooded jacket.  This one from Banana Republic is a good example of taking the major features you love in a hoodie, but done in a tweed-like texture in a neutral color.  Ahh, much better.

2. Instead of Sneakers … Try Desert Boots

From this:

To this:   

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that you can’t ever wear sneakers and be stylish (that being said, there could definitely be a whole separate post about fashionable vs. non-fashionable sneakers).  Sure, there is definitely a time and a place for them in a simpler man’s repertoire.  But they shouldn’t be the first thing you reach for, and certainly not your daily footwear of choice.

If you’re particular about your shoes, and won’t sacrifice comfort for style, take a baby step and try desert boots.  Clarks’ version pictured here is a classic for a reason - they’re extremely versatile, and never really go out of style.  For a plethora of great looks featuring desert boots, check out men’s style blog Street Etiquette (my second favorite, of course):

3. Instead of Velcro … Try a Leather Wallet

From this:

To this:

Okay, okay - this one is a bit of a joke.  Or is it?  Just to be safe, I’ll make myself clear: invest in a nice wallet.  Velcro, chains, and duct tape probably won't get you very far with the ladies. Enough said.

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simplerwoman allisonAllison is a food, tech, and style loving San Franciscan.

You can catch her in the city making Tartine bread, consulting people on their startups, or helping guys dress better. 

Photo Credits: Coach.com, Streetetiquette.com, Banana Republic, American Eagle, Zappos

What am I wearing 1.22.12

Mark Kwak

Time for another outfit of the day post. Felt like dressing up a bit (ie: putting on a tie and pocket square), but also wanted to remain casual enough to blend into the city a bit. Here's my solution:

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Coat: Banana Republic | Sunglasses: Oliver Peoples | Pocket Square: John W. Nordstrom

Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Tie: Drake's | Cardigan: Black Fleece

Belt: Perry Ellis | Pants: Ian Velardi | Socks: Merona | Shoes: Paul Smith

So as many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Thom Browne's branding (the red, white, and blue, generally on grosgrain). That's exactly why I'm wearing this Black Fleece cardigan along with a relatively conservative outfit. I think a small, but noticeable pop of color can really put some spice into an otherwise "safe" getup, so this cardigan fit the bill for me. I'll certainly be doing a post about adding pops of color to an outfit shortly.

So until then...

Quick looks & pleasing everybody

Mark Kwak

I was tossing and turning in bed the other day, unable to fall sleep. In situations like this, most normal people would read a book, count sheep, or just idly lay in their beds till the inevitable sleep haze engulfed their conscience.

Well, I'm a bit weird, and probably not very normal. Thus, as a sleep remedy, I decided to go into my closet and start randomly taking pieces out, just to put them together in different combinations that I thought might work out. Also, I felt compelled to add ties to the mix as well.

It kind of worked, as I was so tired of putting on and taking off clothes that I eventually plopped on my bed and immediately fell asleep.

The outcome is below. And yes, I am actually wearing pants.

The hunter's look.

Jacket: Barbour | Vest: Barbour | Tie: Ovadia & Sons | Shirt: Brooks Brothers

The formal look.

Jacket: Black Fleece | Pocket Square: Nordstrom | Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Tie Bar: Thetiebar | Tie: Theory

The ultra-hyperextended neck look.

Jacket: John Varvatos Collection | Shirt: Black Fleece | Tie: Drake's

The cold day layering look.

Coat: Hugo Boss | Knitwear: Banana Republic | Shirt: Black Fleece | Tie: Theory

The overcoat with suit look... or as I like to call it: blue steel look.

Coat: Banana Republic | Jacket: John Varvatos Collection | Shirt: Ben Sherman | Tie: Ben Sherman

The Looper-ish look.

Jacket: Theory | Shirt: Armani Collezioni | Tie: Thetiebar

The blue, blue, blue, and blue layer look.

Coat: Black Fleece | Jacket: Levi's | Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Tie: Ovadia & Sons

My first thought was to put these photos on reddit, mainly because I was curious to see which outfits vibed well with the huge crowd over there, and which didn't. I put the album up on reddit in the morning, walked away from the computer for about an hour, and then revisited its status shortly afterward.

Apparently the album became quite popular in that hour, ultimately hitting the first spot on /r/malefashionadvice, receiving thousands of up-votes, and getting more comments than I could read.

Turns out that pretty much every single look was simultaneously criticized and praised, showing how incredibly different peoples' tastes are. Some people said my Barbour look was the best, while others thought it was the worst. Some argued that leather jackets should never go with ties, others said leather jackets looked best with ties. Let's just say there was a lot of noise, and it taught me a valuable lesson.

The lesson is that you aren't going to please everybody with your look, no matter how great it is. Sure there are rules that you should follow to look better overall (for example, getting things that are more fitted to your body), but even then, you just aren't going to win everyone's approval, as everyone's tastes are different.

I put together 7 very different outfits, and for each outfit I got hundreds of different reactions. At first, I took each comment constructively, learning from what people had to say. Later on though, all I ended up really caring about was my own opinion, especially after seeing how much contradiction there was about what people thought was right and what people thought was wrong.

I think the best thing is for you to feel confident in the clothes that you wear, and present your unique style to the world expecting nothing in return. Sure, positive reinforcement may help you feel better, but ultimately, I think the most attractive thing about someone's style is how they own their look. The swagger and confidence they have in wearing what they are wearing. The great thing is that no one can help you own your look, only you can.

Anyhow, sorry to go on a rant there, but I hope I was able to at least provide you with some ideas for outfits. Oh, and just kidding about the pants comment I made above. Commando all the way.

Peacoats, and Bond... James Bond.

Mark Kwak

The cool breeze of winter is approaching. You're trying to stay warm, but it seems like your trusty old jacket just isn't doing it for you. Guess what? It's time to bust out the classic winter piece... the peacoat.

Many of you probably own a peacoat or have owned one at some point in your life. If you don't or haven't, I would highly recommend going out and getting one before the start of the winter. It's an incredibly functional and timeless piece of clothing that I think every man should own, regardless of age, stature, occupation, etc.

In case you don't actually know what a peacoat is, let me help educate you. A peacoat is a wool (or wool blend) outer coat that was originally worn by sailors in the Navy (but obviously worn by just about anyone now). Peacoats generally have broad lapels, double-breasted fronts, metal, leather, or horn buttons, and go down in length to your upper thigh. They are also most widely available in their original color, navy, but can also come in black, charcoal, mid-grey, tan, etc.

So now that you know what a peacoat is, let me tell you why I think they're awesome. First off, peacoats keep you warm. Real warm. Generally made out of a thick wool or wool blend, peacoats are meant to help you get through the hard winter times. I mean if they worked for naval officers out on the arctic sea, why can't they work for you?

Second, peacoats are extremely classy, and can help elevate your look to the next level. Whether you're wearing a T-shirt or full-blown tuxedo, the moment you put on that peacoat, you'll look more sophisticated and classy than you did before. I know, I know... it's a more casual coat, but as long as the body of the coat is longer than your jacket, I still think it can work well with formal wear.

This brings up my third point. Peacoats are versatile. They can work on top of virtually any outfit, as they can be worn both casually and formally. Layer it on top of your henley, or use it as outerwear for your suit! A peacoat will do just fine in both situations.

Now, just because peacoats are awesome doesn't mean that any peacoat will do. I highly recommend putting a little bit of money behind one of these to ensure quality, as almost all designers will make a peacoat, and some will be of terrible quality. Personally, I think $200-$300 is a sweet spot for a solid peacoat, and I swear it'll be worth it. The Schotts ones below will probably give you the best bang for your buck, quality-wise. Also, I would stick with navy or charcoal grey in terms of color. Lastly, make sure the coat fits nice and slim on you. You want the coat to still flatter your body and fit immaculately. Keep it relatively snug, but also make sure that you can fit a sweater or jacket underneath.

Here are some peacoats that I would recommend at different price points:

~$50-$100: Uniqlo Peacoat , Topman Peacoat

~$100-$200: J. Crew Bayswater Peacoat , Banana Republic Peacoat

~$200-$400: Schotts Peacoat , Diesel Wittory Peacoat

~$400-above: Maison Martin Margiela Peacoat , Burberry London Peacoat

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So you're probably wondering why the title of this post mentions James Bond. Well first off, I think James Bond is an amazing fashion icon, especially with Daniel Craig running the show. If you need some fashion inspiration, just watch a Bond movie and you should be set for a while; I know I always am. Second, the peacoat that I'm wearing in the pictures above is actually the same peacoat Bond wears in his latest movie Skyfall. The makers of the coat, Billy Reid, released a limited supply of them to the public right when the movie was released, and I was lucky enough to get in the first batch. Check out some of the details on this thing:

Just a couple thoughts on this peacoat. First, I do think the quality is great. It's a pretty expensive coat ($695 MSRP) so I fully expect it to be, and thankfully Billy Reid didn't disappoint. The wool is nice and warm, the cut is slim and fashionable, and the leather trimming is beautifully done.

With that being said, I may not end up keeping the coat for a couple reasons. First, I'm not much a fan of the lapels. I think they can look great on a lot of people, but to me they jut out a bit too much. Let's just say that when the collar is popped, my side profile is less than flattering. Second, the coat is a tad big on me. The sleeves are way too long, and instead of ending at my upper thigh, the body of this peacoat goes down to my mid thigh, and I think that might be longer than what I would consider ideal. A slightly taller man would probably love it though. Lastly, the peacoat is unlined. Nothing wrong with unlined coats, but I prefer a layer of thinsulate so that my arms don't itch from the wool.

Anyhow, the next shipment of these babies starts in January so keep a look out in case you're interested. It's an excellent coat and I would highly recommend it if you like the look.